I’d like to summarize some of the thoughts regarding the topic of e-war and combat utility drones:
-First, it is generally recognized that the e-war drones are under-powered, to the point where they are mostly useless. Weak in power, durability and speed.
-Second, it should be recognized that these drones are not expected to be a replacement for a fitted module on a ship, but as a drone they should be able to provide flexible solutions and options to an encounter.
-Third, drone bay space is valuable, so ideally drones that provide a flexible option will not use up that much of it.
-Fourth, many E-War types have stacking penalties, which makes it more valuable to have effects provided from a single strong source, rather than many weak ones.
After going over these points I came up with a new possibility:
A drone with dynamic strength depending upon the bandwidth available to it.
Imagine there only being a single 10m^3 drone type available for each e-war type. This drone will apply an effect at a dynamically defined strength to it’s target based upon how much bandwidth that the ship controlling it can assign to it. When It is deployed it will use anywhere between 5 to 50 mbit/s of bandwidth, depending on how much the ship has available to provide to it.
50 mbit/s would essentially equal a meta 1 module, 25 mbit/s 2/3 of a module, 10mbit/s 1/2 a modulle, and 5 mbit/s 1/3 of a module. (actual values may vary, as my example may be a little strong). It could also be made so that a ship can only field one or two of these drones at a time, and not mix different e-war types together
I think this may be a strong option to make these drones viable and see use throughout the game.
Added to the above, having additional behavioral options to drone flights could significantly increase their survivability. Currently all non-sentry drones will orbit their targets relatively closely. If we could have the options to orbit close, orbit far, or stay close to the host ship while still engaging, then drones could make use of their targeting ranges more effectively.